Professor Anja Boisen was recently awarded Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog by Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark. The award is based on her many years of work as professor at DTU, where she heads the Center of Excellence IDUN doing research in the field of micro and nanotechnology. Anja Boisen had previously received the Elite Research Prize from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, and her research has formed the basis for substantial innovation in how drugs are delivered to the body using nanotechnology.
Chairwoman of KIF, Maren Malling, conducted this short interview with Anja Boisen.
First of all, congratulations on receiving this very special honor!
Please tell us about your field of research and the benefits of this research for society
We work with micro and nano devices for sensing applications and drug delivery: two activities with great synergy. For example, our developed nanomechanical sensors can be used to characterize new drug formulations. We hope to provide new and safe solutions for oral delivery of labile drugs, such as insulin, and to facilitate better monitoring of the effect of treatment of diseases, such as cancer.
Please tell us about your career path
After finishing my master’s studies in physics and mathematics from Roskilde University, I worked as high school teacher for nearly a year. I then did an industrial PhD in the company ‘Danish Micro Engineering’, with a research stay at IBM Almaden. After my PhD degree (1997), I was hired as a postdoc at DTU, and after a few years (1999), I was awarded my first research grant that made it possible for me to start my own research group. I became associate professor in 1999, and professor in 2005.
Were you always interested in science? What motivated you to study physics?
I guess I have always been interested in science. My parents were both schoolteachers (biology and physics), so I have been exposed to a lot of experiments and fieldwork. My motivation to study physics started after the first year in university. I had done an interesting experimental physics project that inspired me a lot and secondly, one of my female tutors decided to study physics. She was kind of a role model for me. Very few women studied physics.
Besides being Head of Section and professor at DTU Health Tech as well as leader of the IDUN research center, you part of a number of boards and committees. What is your motivation for doing this work?
The feeling of making a difference and the opportunity to give something back to science and society. Also, it is a fantastic opportunity to meet new interesting people and to learn a lot of new stuff.
As center leader and professor, you mentor students and hire junior staff. How do you support and encourage these young, aspiring scientists?
I try to see the individual and to understand the person’s motivation and career wishes. Together, we try to align expectations, to set goals and to define responsibilities. I try to be very open about the limited career possibilities within academia and I try to show alternative career paths – for example by inviting former group members to give talks and tell about their own careers. Many work in industry today or have started their own businesses. I support as much as I can in terms of providing feedback, using my network and general coaching.
You have received a long list of grants and awards over the years but being awarded the Order of Dannebrog must be quite a unique honor. Receiving this order what does that mean to you?
It is an award with a lot of history and tradition. There is something very unique and very Danish about the Order of Dannebrog. It makes me proud on behalf of the entire team.